Use vision to spur growth

By Ian Widdop, Director at Growth Partners
Johannesburg, 04 Jul 2005

What is behind the successes of brands like British Airways or Apple? They live their vision. They do this by formulating it and then communicating it clearly; ensuring that all in the company buy into the encapsulated values; and implementing objectives, strategies and tactics that embody that vision.

More than a decade ago, British Airways suffered the image of being the world`s worst airline. At one point, employee morale and customer confidence was so low, it resulted in a massive flight attendant walkout that grounded the company and cost millions.

It has since turned this around and, living its vision, is now considered one of the world`s favourite airlines, which is reflected in its vision statement. The airline saved itself by seeing where it was and where it could be. It began directing its objectives towards achieving its vision. This vision was clearly communicated to staff and customers, who were all given the opportunity to get involved in moving the company in the right direction. It had a passion for its vision, and now lives it.

Vision is nothing without the right tools to achieve the ultimate goal set.

Ian Widdop, Director, Growth Partners

Apple`s vision: "Man is the creator of change in this world. As such he should be above systems and structures, and not subordinate to them." Apple lives this vision through the technologies it develops for consumers and corporations. It strives to make its customers masters of the products they have bought. Apple doesn`t simply make a statement. It lives it by ensuring its employees understand the vision and strive to reach it. It has put systems in place to enable smooth customer interaction. It has put objectives in place to continuously move forward; implemented strategies to fulfil these objectives; and ensured the right marketing, financial and operational structures are in place to apply the strategies.

Consider: "I will build a motor car for the great multitude. It will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one. The horse will disappear from the highways, the automobile will be taken for granted." - Henry Ford. Has Ford lived the vision?

A thoughtful, substantial, meaningful vision statement communicates direction. It is a statement about what your company wants to become; it should strike a key with your staff and help them feel proud, excited and part of something much bigger than themselves. A vision should stretch the company`s capabilities and image of itself; it should give shape and direction to the company`s future. It is a definition of why the company exists. It transforms the business into something more meaningful.

Operationalising the vision statement is brought about through setting of the right objectives and then implementing strategies and tactics to achieve those objectives. Typically these objectives are measurable and quantifiable, and stretch the community involved in the business to attain them. The objectives become milestones towards the achievement of the vision.

Strategies represent the high-level "how", the battle plan by which the business uses its resources to best effect in its unique competitive environment. Tactics are merely the daily, weekly, monthly To Dos that enable these strategies. Employees, suppliers, customers and others inside the community of that business are all involved in making this happen. Progress in all these enterprises must be measured, both by the attainment of predetermined milestones along the way; and by more regular, periodic measurement against a chosen set of indicators (eg: Am I selling the amount I said I would? Profitably? Are my machines operating efficiently?).

Vision is nothing without the right tools to achieve the ultimate goal set. Good intentions are worthless unless acted on. However, with a vision that inspires you, and all those around you, and objectives, strategies and tactics in place to achieve that vision, you have the potential for unimaginable growth.

In the third Industry Insight in this series, I will connect setting objectives for growth with in-depth knowledge of markets and customers.